Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weight Loss and Writing

It's Monday, which means it's time for a trip into the random: Claire's mind.

Doo doo doo (eerie Twilight Zone music).

Today I'm sharing some similarities between Weight loss and Writing, other than the fact that they both start with 'W'.

1. Gains must outweigh losses

With anything that requires a long commitment, self-deprivation, tolerance, or a large input, the question comes up.

Is it worth it?

Would you rather be fit than be able to sleep in? Than be able to spend the money you currently use for gym membership? Than spend an extra hour watching tv?

Writers make big sacrifices on the journey. We miss out on having great social lives. We spend a little less time with our families than we'd like. We shell out precious income on craft books, workshops, and conferences. Because in our minds, it's worth the possibility that some day we'll be published.

I've heard some who've said that you won't get very far if you're only in it for the money. Or the fame. Or etc, etc. I disagree. So long as the reasons continue to outweigh the sacrifices, you'll keep moving forward. If you realize that only one in thousands is a millionaire, and you remain convinced you'll be that one, then you're fine.

You don't need to justify yourself either. Maybe others tell you that you shouldn't get in shape for your boyfriend, you should do it for you. Maybe you shouldn't. But in the end, it doesn't matter, because your reasons only need to be good enough for you.

2. Everyone has their own path to follow

There are a million and one diet and workout ads. And half of them seem to start like this: 'Have you tried every diet/exercise program and failed? Then this is the program for you!'

There are lots of reasons people 'fail' to get in shape and many of them have nothing to do with the program itself. One of the reasons diets and workout programs fail is because they're not right for the person following them.

If you ran 10 miles every day, you would lose weight. Guaranteed. This will definitely work! Until you quit. Because running 10 miles every day was not your thing.

In writing, we have to find the right fit. Some people prefer to write humour. But your jokes don't come off on paper. Some people prefer to jump right into a story. But without an outline, your stories meander. Some people write late at night. But late nights are full of distractions for you: late night tv, exhaustion, thoughts about the day.

It doesn't matter if you run ten miles a day. If you work out 20 minutes each day or an hour 3 times a week. The important thng is to find what works for you and will take you to your objective.

3. Everyone's an expert

You tell your friends you're on a weight-loss path. Everyone jumps in with advice. Jackie tells you the So You Think You Can Dance workout really worked for her. Tyrone tells you how the Grapefruit diet took inches off his waist. You appreciate their well-meaning words and put a little research into the methods they've mentioned. You might even try them.

Then there's that person. The one who comes up to you in the lunch room and tells you you're doing it wrong. They've never played a sport. They've never been overweight. They go to the gym twice a month and put in half a workout. But they READ somewhere that this is the way to lose weight. It's simple they say, you just have to consume less calories than you burn. What's wrong with you? Why is it taking you so long to lose this weight? They don't actually say that last bit, but they might as well, considering how you feel when they're done.

We all love to hear stories from published and pre-published authors about their paths. Heck, we might even enjoy listening to the ramblings of an aspiring author once in a while. (I'm looking at you!!! Awesome, awesome people, you!!! Every last one of you.) But the 2nd cousin who read Stephen King's memoir/craft book and swears she knows what you should be doing? And the guy in the lunch room who heard how easy it is to self-publish on Amazon? Thanks, but no thanks.

I appreciate that they probably mean well, but if I tried to give an auditor advice on how to make a balance sheet, or told a surgeon where to make an incision,... Well, it wouldn't end well, would it?

4. Similar input does not guarantee similar results.

This reminds me of a story my secondary school English teacher told. She was pregnant at the same time as another girl from the area. My teacher was in her 30's giving birth to her third child. The girl was 15 and it was her first. My teacher went into labour for 2 days. The girl came into hospital, 'dropped out the child' and left before my teacher.

There always that person. Goes to the gym with you. Starts out around the same shape as you. Does the same workouts. 4 months later, he or she has turned into a Kardashian or Brad Pitt, and you're more Toni Colette or Colin Firth.

You start writing at the same time as someone. You go through the same number of revisions/edits. You write in the same genre. That other person gets a 3 book half mil deal. You sell one book for low five figures.

Remember two things:

Where the grass is greener, the water bill is higher. Getting the mega-advance also means the mega-pressure. And if things don't work out, that person fails pretty spectacularly. With such a debt incurred, it might even destroy their hope of a career in the field. On the other hand, earning out 5 figures is do-able. And even if you don't, the loss is small enough that it probably won't have far-reaching consequences.

Colin Firth is Colin Firth. Okay, so he's not the sexiest, buffest, yummiest thing in Hollywood. He's certainly no Brad Pitt. But he's Colin Firth. He's FRIKKIN COLIN FIRTH. There are others on the path who'd be happy for a 5 figure deal. Heck, there are some of us who'd settle for 3 figures, if it would get our name and our work out there. Whatever you get, there's a lot of people who wish they had it that good.

5. You have to put in a stack of work before you see results.

I've been working out since I returned to my Japanese house- January 10th. Five days a week and recently, on the 30 Day Shred, every day. The changes are measurable. The measuring tape tells me how many inches. The scale tells me how many kilos (yeah, Japan is metric- who knew?) There is clearly a (large) space in the waistband of my jeans, but without the help of clothes or measurements, noone could tell anything's changed.

I'm doing this purely for myself. Still I can't wait for the day that I go somewhere and someone comes up to me and says, 'Dang, Claire. Did you lose weight?' Of course, I'll be all modest. 'Yeah, a couple pounds.' Like 50.

We put hours and hours into our stories. And early on, we have nothing to show. We get a harsh critique or an agent rejection and it feels like nothing has changed. But a book deal is not the only measurement. Pull out the first draft of your first MS. Be happy that there are fewer red marks on your critiqued MS. Notice that you've moved from form rejections to personalised suggestions. There are so many steps: first drafts and waiting and edits and critiques and waiting and more edits and queries and waiting and partials and fulls and waiting and book deal and waiting.

But the day will come when people will introduce you and titles will follow your name.

It's Monday. (In California at least.) That's what's on my mind.


Aleeza said...

love the auditor-balance sheet mention. im an aspiring auditor/accountant after all, and i love it when people actually know the difference between the two.
dorkiness aside, i love these analogies. especially the last point :)

Aleeza said...

and um, id be colin firth anyday over brad pitt. jus' sayin' :D

jbchicoine said...

Nice analogy! You make many valid observations and good reminders.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the expectaions of everyone around us, measuring our progress by what everyone else is accomplishing or shooting for. There is a lot to be said for simply knowing what our personal goals are and seeing how far we have progressed...

Michael Offutt said...

Great analogy. I'd always thought of weight gain as being related to plopping my ass down in a chair and doing nothing but writing. I didn't realize that weight-loss in fact had so much in common idealistically with writing.

From the Mind of Thomasina said...

Wow, nicely said!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great analogy between losing weight and writing. Though I've found all the sitting from writing and reading blogs is not good for the weight loss. Good for you for exercising so much.